Western Notes: Doncic, Suns, Spurs, Ingram

While Luka Doncic‘s 32 points and nine assists in Tuesday’s Game 2 win over the Clippers were nearly right in line with his regular season numbers, he may have been even more impactful on the other end of the court, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Doncic has never been known for his defense, but he played a key role in limiting L.A.’s shooting percentage on the night to just 36.8%.

“I think his defense has been great this whole series,” head coach Jason Kidd told reporters after his Mavericks evened the series at 1-1. “We know they’re going to put him in pick-and-roll. A couple years ago we saw this, and we had to tell him to participate. But I think he’s participating at a high level on both ends. He’s leading not just on the offensive end but also the defensive end.”

As MacMahon details, the Mavericks had the NBA’s best defensive rating in the final 20 games of the season, and Doncic has made a concerted effort to improve his individual defense. The Clippers repeatedly attacked him on Tuesday, but they made just 2-of-17 shots with Luka as the primary defender, per ESPN.

“I accept it,” Doncic said of the Clippers’ strategy. “It gets me going on defensive end too. That’s fine. I think I played good defense today. I’ve just got to stay locked in.”

Here’s more from around the West:

  • The Suns will need from their three stars if they hope to pull of a first-round comeback against Minnesota, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal combined for just 52 points in Game 2, 20 points below their average regular season total, and turned the ball over 12 times. “Their physicality tarnishes our ability to get into our sets faster,” Beal said on Tuesday. “They do a really good job of just denying [Durant], denying [Booker], being physical with them. [Anthony Edwards] is picking me up full [court]. They’re just making us work before we even get into our sets.”
  • The Spurs have done a good job stockpiling extra draft picks, but now they’ll have to decide how best to use them, writes Nick Moyle of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). As Moyle outlines, San Antonio could have as many as eight first-round picks and eight more second-rounders in the next four drafts. Given the young talent already on the roster and the desire to add complementary pieces around Victor Wembanyama, it won’t make sense for the Spurs to hang onto – and use – all those selections, so some could become trade chips.
  • After being benched down the stretch of the Pelicans‘ first play-in game vs. the Lakers, Brandon Ingram came up big last Friday vs. Sacramento, scoring a team-high 24 points to help New Orleans clinch a playoff berth. However, Ingram contributed just 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting in Game 1 against Oklahoma City. Noting that the Pelicans will need more from the former All-Star going forward, William Guillory of The Athletic explores how they might get him going.
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